Monday Morning QB Column: Auburn Steps Up

Looking at Auburn's big win over LSU and a wild week in college football, setting things up for a crazy finish.

It was an impressive win for the Auburn Tigers on Saturday night as they dominated from start to finish against an overmatched LSU team. Now ranked No. 2 in the country with a monster game this weekend at Mississippi State, Auburn has plenty to be excited about following its first win over LSU since 2010.

Turn Me Loose

One of the things I have been waiting to see is Nick Marshall and the Auburn offense opening up in both the running and passing game. We finally saw that on Saturday night against LSU and the results were explosive for Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee. Throwing the football early to make the opposition respect that part of the game was missing for much of the first four contests, but Saturday night Marshall was given the chance to show off his arm and the results speak for themselves.

Part of a 247-yard first quarter for Auburn’s offense, Marshall connected on 8-10 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown. Perfectly balanced the first 15 minutes with 11 rushes and 11 passes, Auburn kept LSU off-balance on the way to 17 points. Scoring two more touchdowns in the second quarter before taking their foot off the gas, the Tigers put up 379 yards on LSU before the teams retired to the locker rooms for halftime. It was an impressive display and gave the future teams on Auburn’s schedule a taste of what this offense is capable of when clicking on all cylinders.

Building Depth A Key

Auburn has continued to build depth on the defensive side of the line in the last two years and that is showing up now. It was especially apparent vs. LSU when neither Cassanova McKinzy nor Kris Frost were practicing full speed after being injured against Louisiana Tech. With both spending more time watching than working on the game plan it was up to junior Anthony Swain and true freshman Tre Williams to pick up the slack.

While McKinzy and Frost both came on and played the majority of the game in the win over LSU, Swain and Williams both filled in admirably and should have given Defensive Coordinator Ellis Johnson the confidence to turn to them if they are needed in the future.

The same is true in the secondary where Trovon Reed has stepped up big-time at cornerback since his move from wide receiver. Throw in true freshmen Nick Ruffin and Stephen Roberts and you have a talented group of second-line players for the Auburn defense, something that hasn’t been the case in quite a while.

Mincy’s Island?

Even though Auburn’s depth in the secondary has allowed the coaching staff to do different things on that side of the ball, the play of senior cornerback Jonathon Mincy has been the backbone of the back seven for the Tigers. Essentially taking away one side of the field in the passing game, Mincy has rarely been challenged in the first five games and when he is the play is rarely successful. That’s a great luxury for a defense and if the senior keeps up his stifling defense it will allow the Auburn secondary the opportunity to make even more plays down the stretch.

Bulldogs Impressive

Auburn will have its work cut out this weekend much-improved Mississippi State on the road. I thought before the season that the Bulldogs would have a chance to be a 10-win team and that looks to be right on track (or maybe better). With Dak Prescott running the show and one of the top defensive fronts in all of college football the Bulldogs will be a tough out for anyone left on the schedule. With newly renovated Davis Wade Stadium larger and even more closed in, the cowbells will be overwhelming Saturday, but the good news is Auburn’s veterans on both sides of the ball have played in some of the most difficult circumstances in the game and won’t be shaken.

Wild, Wild Week

Survive and advance. That’s the goal for every college football team in the nation right now, especially following a weekend that saw five of the top eight in the AP poll fall in a span of 48 hours. Two of those came in the Pac-12 where the league is definitely improved from top to bottom, but is still not close to challenging the SEC for national conference supremacy.

In the Big 12 once again Big Game Bob and the Oklahoma Sooners ran into trouble, this time at TCU. One thing we have learned over the years is that when Gary Patterson has the talent to compete you better look out. The next two weeks should tell us much more about the league with TCU at Baylor this Saturday and Kansas State at Oklahoma the following week.

In the Big 10 the teams continue to fall by the wayside. This time it was Nebraska’s turn. Failing in an opportunity to surge onto the national scene with a loss against Michigan State, the Huskers are still struggling to get back to their place at the top of the college football pile. Provided neither slip up along the way the Big 10 can put all its eggs in the basket of one game, Nov. 18 when Ohio State travels to East Lansing to face the Spartans. If the conference hopes to have a representative even sniff the college playoffs then one of those two programs will have to be very impressive down the stretch.

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